Birmingham Family Law Update: Adopting a Child means Deciding between Alabama’s Public and Private Adoption Agencies

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 15, 2010 | 0 Comments

Many married couples in Alabama use the services of an adoption agency to help them find a child in need of a good home. In Huntsville, Mobile, Dothan, Gadsden and other towns and cities across the state, adoption agencies provide experienced staffs capable of in finding children and matching them up with willing couples. These organizations also have the knowledge and capability to meet all the needed legal requirements.

As a Birmingham family law attorney, my interest is to see that people know what their legal responsibilities are in cases of adoption. Here in Alabama, adoption groups help adoptive parents with a wide range of services including locating a birth parent to putting the finishing touches on the final legal adoption documents.

A qualified agency will handle many of the critical elements of an adoption, which typically include conducting of a home study, getting the needed consents, and advising the adoptive couple on any state-specific legal requirements that may need to be met.

For many folks looking to adopt, the question often comes up as to whether a private or public adoption agency is best. It should be remembered that private agencies tend to provide extensive counseling to the prospective parents. The counseling services offered by private agencies usually include that for the couple themselves, the birth parents, and the child being adopted, assuming that he or she is old enough to warrant such a service.

Thoughtful counseling at this emotional time can be of great benefit to all parties involved in the adoption process. This usually includes practical advice along with help on all the complex legal issues that can accompany the adoption process. It is especially important that there be protections for the adoptive parents, which is why the birth parent is typically included in the early stages of the counseling process. (It has been shown that a birth parent is less likely to change her mind when the time comes to place signatures on the actual adoption consent forms following the baby's birth.

Of course, there is a down side to using a private agency as these groups are known for being terribly picky about who will be chosen as adoptive parents. Quite simply, this is due to the law of supply and demand. There is usually a surplus of couples looking to adopt, while the pool of available children is much more limited. These agencies tend to select out parents based on age, marital status, income, health, religion, sexual orientation, family size, and personal history (even criminal conduct).

Public agencies, on the other hand, usually have many children ready to be adopted. However, these kids are commonly older or have special needs. If you and you spouse are looking for a newborn or infant, a public agency may not be the best avenue for you. Another thing to remember is that public agencies generally do not provide the range of counseling and other services that the private ones offer. This is typically reflected in the cost, which is much lower for those choosing a public adoption agency.

Of course, regardless of whether you choose a public or private adoption agency, it is always wise to retain the services of a qualified family law attorney to draft the adoption petition and to represent you at the hearing. Although there is no legal requirement that a lawyer be involved in an adoption, the process can be quite complex and should be handled by someone with experience and expertise. When seeking a lawyer, find out how many adoptions he or she has handled, and whether any of them were contested or developed other complications.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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